A 96 year old man named Frederick Buechner died last week. Though I had never met him personally, he meant a lot to me. He was a writer (39 books) and a minister (Presbyterian) whose faith and doubts helped many a minister (not only Presbyterian) negotiate the dance between their own faith and doubts. He wrote about theology and the Bible and ordinary things in a way that helped me to know that I wasn’t alone when I asked questions or needed things expressed in a new way. He was the rare Christian leader who was referred to as gentle and eulogized in the New York Times and on CNN.
I thought I’d share a few passages from his writing with you. In a book called Wishful Thinking, he wrote about communion:
“It is make-believe. You make believe that the one who breaks the bread and blesses the wine is not the plump parson who smells of Aqua Velva but Jesus of Nazareth. You make believe that the tasteless wafer and cheap port are his flesh and blood. You make believe that by swallowing them you are swallowing his life into your life and that there is nothing in earth or heaven more important for you to do than this.
It is a game you play because he said to play it. “Do this in remembrance of me.” Do this….
The next time you walk down the street, take a good look at every face you pass and in your mind say Christ died for thee. That girl. That slob. That phony. That crook. That saint. That damned fool. Christ died for thee. Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee.”
In Whistling in the Dark, he wrote this:
“When you remember me, it means that you have carried something of who I am with you, that I have left some mark of who I am on who you are. It means that you can summon me back to your mind even though countless years and miles may stand between us. It means that if we meet again, you will know me. It means that even after I die, you can still see my face and hear my voice and speak to me in your heart.
For as long as you remember me, I am never entirely lost. When I’m feeling most ghost-like, it’s your remembering me that helps remind me that I actually exist. When I’m feeling sad, it’s my consolation. When I’m feeling happy, it’s part of why I feel that way.
If you forget me, one of the ways I remember who I am will be gone. If you forget me, part of who I am will be gone.
‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom,’ the good thief said from the cross. There are perhaps np more human words in all of Scripture, no prayer we can pray so well.”
I give God thanks for his life and writing. And I invite you to explore some fresh ways of thinking about your faith by reading some of what he wrote.
Grace and peace,